Throughout a career-long tendency for lineup and label changes, Chicago-based alt rock band, Wilco have released a wide variety of albums in terms of feel, approach and execution and with their post-A.M catalog ranging from the highly experimental Being There to the surprisingly unthreatening Sky Blue Sky, it would be easy to expect their most recent, The Whole Love to be either characteristically edgy or approachably bland. Surprisingly, this release is somehow neither.
Out of familiarity and confidence rather than compromise Wilco have managed to release a record that is at once rife with the experimentation of earlier releases and cohesively palatable. Featuring a track list dominated by effortless and subdued songs interrupted by the occasional attention-grabbing cathartic experiment, The Whole Love is unique. It contains enough of the old Wilco’s knack for shaking things up to satisfy those bored stiff by the normalcy of the band’s mid-career releases while simultaneously standing as a more cohesive effort than even a ghost is born, successfully placing it on par with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
As silence is ripped apart with the noisy, distorted sound of someone fumbling with a microphone on album-opener, “The Art of Almost,” it seems clear that Wilco have once again returned to the experimental leanings of their past. But once you endure the 7-minute-long saga of instrumental and vocal indulgence, it also becomes clear that there’s a depth on this album to be appreciated.
Plodding, steel guitar-laced, “Black Moon” and bouncy narrative, “Capitol City” offer two vastly different incarnations for the band, yet neither breaks the overall tone or flow of the album. That artistic diversity devoid of unfavorable frenetic disorganization is a masterful achievement by what finally sounds like a veteran band.
A commendable effort from a seasoned and accomplished group of musicians, The Whole Love is an indication of a stronger, more resolute Wilco. Secure in a tenacious lineup and finally on their own label, there’s nothing to keep this band from securing their already lofty spot as one of the greatest bands of this generation.